'Beyond the Mist' Where Art is Blurring Borders

Cultural Diplomacy Interview by Preity Athwal

Cultural diplomacy is gaining traction worldwide, with more and more countries investing in it. Art, culture, theatre, music, sports, etc are increasingly being used as instruments of foreign policy to enhance bilateral as well as multilateral relations.

‘Beyond the Mist’ Art Exhibition is the result of International Art Residency programme called ‘Artists Point’ that took place in Meghalaya in May 2016. The exhibition is about cultures coming together, breaking barriers and building bridges. The art exhibition was held at All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society, New Delhi, curated by Slovak artist Jana Bednarova and supported by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in New Delhi.

The talented Slovak artist, Jana Bednarova, talks to Diplomatist Associate Editor Preity Athwal about art as a bridge blurring borders, cultural convergence and her experiences in India. Take a look.

Q. What did you find unique about India and the people you’ve come across here?

Jana: Really, India is a culturally rich country, with its colourful variations in visual art folklore music, social environment and languages. I heard a lot about India’s spiritual prowess; what attracted me and bring my painting study to MSU Baroda was the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) internship 4 years back. After completing my MA degree in Baroda followed by research in Kamakhya temple in Assam and finally establishing the Picasso Pupils International Art Community together with Alakesh Dutta, I must say I met many different people. And I have to say though the culture and social environment difference divide us; at the core of the heart, people are same. It’s easy to work here because though I am far away from home, I can still meet people who are like family to me and who can laugh on the same joke.

Q. What inspiration have you drawn from this colourful country that has been embodied into your artwork that we are seeing today? Did you find any similarities between Slovakia and India?

Jana: Yes, definitely similarities are there, mostly the North East of India and the folklore of Assam has something unbelievably similar. When I brought the gamusa from Assam like a souvenir to my friends in Slovakia, they were surprised thinking that the embroidery is one of the Slovak traditional cloths. Here in this exhibition, you can see the art works created during International Art Residency ‘Artists Point’, organised by Picasso Pupils together with Shillong public School in collaboration with Government of Meghalaya and Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Delhi. Seven artists from Slovakia, Czech Republic and Spain stayed for one month in Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya and tried to reflect the beauty of root bridges, calmness of monoliths and beautiful views of Khasi Hills. My works here are also mostly inspired by nature and folklore forms.

Q. What do you think of Indian artists? Please share your perspective.

Jana: India is already blessed with rich culture, traditional art forms and definitely blessed with great artists, who have marked their existence in international art world. So, there is definitely big source of inspiration.

Q. Although, the artistic talent in India is in abundance, they lack promotion and exposure. What can be done to rectify this?

Jana: Definitely there is a lot of talent not only in India but all over the world, who didn’t get the right exposure or didn’t find the way how to change the world by their artistic ideas. They have to get right information where and how to promote themselves and if there is nobody to promote them, they are free to create new platform or establish an NGO like we are trying. India has many institutes and organisations, which promote art; however, many scopes and possibilities to start new platforms are also there.

Q. What, in your opinion, defines Indian art?

Jana: According to my vision, Indian art is the bearer and representative of glorious ancient Indian traditions, art forms and culture. It is famous across the globe, and has influenced the European modern art for instance. So, I would say that Indian art has a lot of influence.

Q. Have you tried the cuisine here?

Jana: Yes, I love Indian cuisine. It is definitely one very nice extension of the Indian culture.

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